Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Some people don't get headaches, and I think they're pretty lucky.
There are many types of headaches- sinus, digestion-related, migraine, cluster, among others- but they all have one thing in common. Pain. Even a low level headache can put you out of commission, but an intense headache can make you want to be permanently put out of your misery. Although at times medication is the only recourse, there are things you can do to prevent and minimize the occurrence of these throbbing visitants.
Sinus headaches, for example, respond extremely well to essential oils diffused in the air. The combination of rosemary, peppermint and thyme can work seeming miracles when your sinuses are congested and your head feels as though someone is drilling spikes through your eyebrows. This mixture also helps with any potential nausea. People with chronic sinus or respiratory problems can really benefit from using a vaporizer (available at most drug stores) with oils in the medicine cup area while they are sleeping, for example. This is also an excellent way to aid sleep in general, using the more soporific and relaxing oils such as spikenard or ylang ylang as well as the respiratory helpers above.
Deep frontal headaches are often related to digestive and gall bladder issues. Gently massaging a mixture of flower essences and essential oils directly on the forehead can bring substantial relief. Ongoing attention to diet and stress is very important in managing this sort of headache, as it is, in a way, the body saying it can't digest what is going on around it. Diffusing mixes of oils, including clary sage, is also helpful for these headaches.
A tension headache can be greatly eased by a bath with essential oils in it, including peppermint. Even a foot bath can be very pain relieving in these instances. Paying attention to your breathing is also important with tension headaches, as in: Do it.
The mechanism of migraine headaches is not well understood, and of course once you've got one in progress the only real treatment recourse is prescription medication. ( I had to laugh the other day at a commercial for an OTC migraine medicine. Relief, it said, in just half an hour. Half an hour with a migraine is eternity.) However, migraines do come along with prodromes, and paying attention in that time period can save you some misery later on. Diffusing or vaporizing the oils of basil and mugwort together is very powerful for migraine headaches, although this should not be used by pregnant or nursing women, or young children, just to be safe. A mixture including clary sage, peppermint and eucalyptus can be very helpful in a prodrome, along with an ice pack on the back of the neck. There is some evidence that the herbs feverfew and butterburr work to help prevent migraines, most likely on a vascular level.
There are many ways to approach headaches using botanicals. I have found that the essential oils are tremendously helpful both during a headache and preventively. They have the benefit of quick entry into the system and bloodstream without a lot of side effects, as well as improving the air quality wherever you are using them. If you have frequent headaches, of course consult your physician to be sure of the causes, but also think about using the organic and non-invasive benefits of essential oils as an adjunct to whatever other treatments you use.
Kelley Rico is a trained herbalist and aromatherapist, and a certified flower essence and Jin Shin Jyutsu® practitioner.